Tooth decay is a disease also known as caries or cavities. Unlike other diseases tooth decay is not life threatening and is highly preventable, though it affects most people to some degree during their life.
Tooth decay occurs when your teeth are frequently exposed to foods containing starches and sugars. Examples of these include fizzy drinks, squashes, sweets, ice cream, chocolate, cakes, biscuits and even fruits and juices. Natural bacteria live in the mouth and form plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy substances to produce acids. These acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralising, the mineral structure of teeth, leading to tooth decay.
The acids formed by plaque can be counteracted by saliva in your mouth, which acts as a buffer and remineralising agent. Dentists often recommend chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate your saliva production. However, although it is the body’s natural defence against cavities, saliva alone is not sufficient to combat tooth decay.
The best way to minimise decay is to brush and floss regularly. To rebuild the early damage caused by plaque bacteria, we use fluoride, a natural substance that helps to remineralise the tooth structure.
Fluoride is very important in preventing decay and in early lesions can help remineralisation.
If you are at medium to high risk for cavities, we may recommend special high concentration fluoride gels or mouth rinses. Your dentist may also use professional strength anti-cavity varnish, or sealants, that provide an extra barrier against food and debris.
The best way is to follow these steps:
- Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks.
- Brush and floss daily. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside, between the teeth and the biting surface. Be sure the bristles are firm, not bent, and replace your toothbrush regularly to safeguard against re-infecting your mouth with old bacteria that can collect on the brush. Electric toothbrushes are an excellent alternative to manual brushes and modern designs will have a two minute timer and a mechanism to tell you if you are brushing too hard.
- Use toothpastes and rinses that contain fluoride.
- Visit your dentist and hygienist every three to six months for consultation and professional cleaning.
- Because cavities can be difficult to detect, a thorough dental examination is very important. The Diagnodent laser is a very useful tool in detecting early tooth decay.
- If you get a painful toothache, if your teeth are very sensitive to hot or cold foods, or if you notice signs of decay like white spots, brown spots or cavities, make an appointment as soon as possible. Treating tooth decay in the early stages is simple. If left then tooth decay will progress resulting in more invasive treatments such as root canal surgery or even tooth loss.
Gum disease describes swelling, soreness or infection of the tissues supporting the teeth. There are two main forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. This is when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and is reversible with good oral hygiene and hygienist care.
Long-standing gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out. In fact, more teeth are lost through periodontal disease than through tooth decay.
Probably. Most people suffer from some form of gum disease, and it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, the disease develops very slowly in most people, and it can be slowed down to a rate that should allow you to keep most of your teeth for life.
All gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth and gums every day. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to be the main cause of gum disease. To prevent and treat gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing, flossing and the use of other aids which the hygienist will be able to advise on.
Smoking can also make gum disease worse. Patients who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums fail to heal. Smoking causes people to have more dental plaque and for gum disease to progress more rapidly than in non-smokers. Gum disease still remains the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
Unfortunately, gum disease generally progresses painlessly on the whole so that you do notice the damage it is doing. However, the bacteria are sometimes more active and this makes your gums sore. This can lead to gum abscesses, and pus may ooze from around the teeth. Over a number of years, the bone supporting the teeth can be lost. If the disease is left untreated for a long time tooth loss is inevitable.
The first sign is blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant.
The first thing to do is visit your dentist for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. The dentist can measure the ‘cuff’ of gum around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started. X-rays will also be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost. This assessment is very important, so the correct treatment can be prescribed for you.
Initially the hygienist will clean your teeth thoroughly to remove the plaque and calculus. You will also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions.
Once your teeth are clean, your dentist or hygienist may decide to carry out further cleaning of the roots of the teeth, to make sure that the last pockets of bacteria are removed. This is known as root planing. You will probably need the treatment area to be numbed before anything is done. Afterwards, you may feel some discomfort for up to 48 hours.
The periodontal diseases are never cured. But it can be controlled; as long as you keep up the home care you have been taught. Any further loss of bone will be very slow and it may stop altogether. However, you must make sure you remove plaque every day at home and attend regular appointments with the dentist and hygienist.
Pregnancy is an important time in your life and an especially important time for your personal health care. During pregnancy, you are assimilating and providing necessary nutrients for the growth and good health of your child. Some women experience dental problems during their pregnancy. These can be brought on by a variety of reasons:
- Expectant mothers have an increasing tendency to snack and, unfortunately, many times the snacks consist of sticky sweets. Reducing snacking and staying on a well balanced diet will benefit your dental health, your overall health and the health of your developing baby.
- Hormonal changes can occur during pregnancy which makes your gums susceptible to swelling or bleeding. This is called pregnancy gingivitis.
It is important to continue to brush and floss daily and eat a healthy diet with sugars mainly restricted to mealtimes. It is very important to visit the dentist and hygienist during pregnancy to minimise any risk of disease. Once your baby is born, this is something you may not have time to do. Be sure and get any dental problems you may have taken care of prior to baby’s arrival.
Initially, it is best to take your child to the dentist with you at your regular dental examination. This will acclimatise your child to the dental environment. Examinations can be begin at any stage and will generally involve a simple check to ensure the baby (deciduous) teeth are present and healthy.
In addition to checking for decay, the dentist will advise you as to how to properly clean your child’s teeth, evaluate any adverse habits such as thumb sucking and identify your child’s fluoride needs. By starting dental visits at an early age, you will help your child build a lifetime of good dental habits.
While there is no set rule, it is generally recommended that children should visit the dentist every six months to a year.
• Bribe your child into going to the dentist.
• Let the child know that you feel any anxiety about going to the dentist.
• Use a dental visit as a punishment.
• Let anyone tell your child scary stories about dental visits.
• Use words like hurt, pain, needle, drill, injection etc.
Please remember do:
• Try to make dental visits enjoyable for your child, we’ll help with this.
• Make the dental visit a special occasion rather than a chore. We will always arrange special treats for children such as stickers and cleaning aids as a reward.
• Set a good example! Brush and floss your own teeth daily and visit the dentist regularly.
In general, cosmetic dentistry is an elective procedure. However improving a smile can improve confidence and wellbeing in general. Many studies have shown that that after the eyes, the teeth are the next point of vision and say a great deal about you.
There are many different perceptions of beauty and we believe that a smile is individual and should be designed solely for you. If Hollywood white is what you aspire to achieve, then this can be reached. Alternatively, dramatic results can also be achieved with a more subtle approach. We will discuss all the options with you and formulate a bespoke plan.
Cosmetic dentistry has evolved dramatically over the years and improving your smile can be simple as tooth whitening and cosmetic bonding which is non invasive and cost effective.
For a more dramatic improvement pre alignment of the teeth prior to minimal preparation porcelain veneers is a popular option. By aligning the teeth first using techniques such as the Inman aligner, Invisalign or clear aligners means that only minimal if any preparation of the teeth is required to provide a beautiful result with porcelain veneers.
If your teeth have been heavily restored in the past or damaged by disease then a full mouth reconstruction may be required to restore functionality and aesthetics. If you are missing one or several teeth, dental implants are often the best way to replace them. Implants can be incorporated into a cosmetic treatment plan so that they are unnoticed from your own natural teeth.